Last night, at the CT Forum:

A protester stood before the actual conversation at Thursday night’s CT Forum (a panel on racism) to say that members of the Black Lives Matter movement were there to disrupt the proceedings because there was no meaningful representation of their movement on the stage, and talk doesn’t bring back the black lives lost to brutality, and conversation needs to move to action.

Someone involved with the effort contacted me last night on Facebook and said this was going on, and asked me to like or share (today’s form of activism) their status update on Facebook.

I know the folks at CT Forum and believe they are doing great work. I didn’t know what form the disruption took (the video above wasn’t posted yet) and from a few goofs in the past, I’ve learned that giving an endorsement to something about which I knew so little is foolhardy. So I didn’t like or share anything.

Then I spent the next few hours wondering why I couldn’t just hit the “like” button. I settled on “I don’t know what form that disruption took, and is it smart to disrupt an event where people are actually talking about the issue you want talked about.”

Even as I type that, I know how it sounds. “Be happy, Black People, because we’re talking about you.”

I do not believe that was CT Forum’s intent — at all. The forum creates a space where people can both talk, and listen, and last night’s event would have been worth  the ticket I would have cheerfully paid for, had I not been teaching a class. Had I been there — had we all been there — we would have gained wisdom from the protesters, and from the people on the stage.

On Thursday, the Central Connecticut State University communication department is hosting “Bridging the Gap: A Dream Deferred,” the culmination of a semester-long look at wealth and income inequality through the prism of race. This is our second such event, and we have been intentional in the planning. Tim Wise, author of “White Like Me,” and “Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich, and Sacrificing the Future of America,” is our keynote speaker. We chose Wise because of his then-upcoming book (“Affluence”) and because he’s an incredibly dynamic educator.

It did not go unnoticed that he is also a white man. We debated that, too.

We talk about race from our own unique perspective. I can read all I want and talk to as many people as I want from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, yet I will still and always see the world as a white woman. My CCSU class had the privilege of listening to Bishop John Selders, a Moral Monday Ct and Black Lives Matter leader, come and talk about the history of the movement, and his own involvement. That class lecture remains a high point of the semester, which officially ends Monday.

But did we cover all the bases? I don’t know, and  if someone shows up to protest Thursday, I have settled on this: I will shut up and listen. Yes, I will be annoyed at the disruption. You have no idea how much work goes into hosting an event like this. I have no idea how much work goes into hosting an event like this, because our planner, Joan Walden, has done all the work. But it’s a lot, I think.

Still: This is all in the name of learning, and broadening the conversation, and those messy and uncomfortable conversations are worth the price of the semester. Onward. And here is a list of demands from Moral Monday CT, working in tandem with the Black Lives Matter movement:

  1. An immediate moratorium on shoot-to-kill and an end to police brutality against black people.

  1. Full employment for our people
  1. Affordable, quality housing.
  1. An end to the school to prison pipeline.
  1. Freedom from mass incarceration and an end to the prison industrial complex.

 

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17 responses to “Last night, at the CT Forum:

  1. Thank you for this Susan.
    I was conflicted when someone posted the youtube video to Facebook. The Forum does indeed bring issues to the fore, and by the price of the tickets, is bringing issues to people who might not otherwise be touched by whatever the issue is. I’m not sure that disruption is the way to go….might turn people off to the cause.

    • That’s always the question, yes? People are there to learn about the issue. I say that even while I can understand the motivation behind protesting precisely at such events. You already have people who could be members of the choir. Maybe this will make them sing louder?

  2. Identity politics is so complicated.
    For instance: When Black Lives Matter representatives state they demand “Full employment for our people,” which people are they referring to? Just Black people? If so, am I to be considered racist because I want full employment for all workers?

    And it sounded like the protester was invited, by I believe Jessica Williams, to take part in the conversation. Did Black Lives Matter return and participate? Did Black LIves Matter make any attempt to be included in the forum prior to this well publicized event? Because when playing bourgeois politics, it might be worth considering to ask to be included before protesting about not being included in a forum where three of the five scheduled participants are Black. Then, exclusion would create a controversy.

  3. Hey Leftover, you have valid points for discussion but are missing the larger picture. The forum was put together and did not consider people in CT that should have be invited to be on that panel. It is not incumbent upon #BlackLivesMatter or Moral Monday CT to inquire about being included. Bishop John Selders and wife Pamela Selders started MMCT but were only contacted after someone in the community advised Bushnell Center folk a mistake was made. That is why the forum was disrupted, and by the way I helped plan the “turn-up”inside the CT Forum on racism.

    • @cornell lewis (because for some reason the reply box says Jac)…
      I disagree that it is not incumbent for BLM/MMCT…or any activist organization… to contact event organizers to try and ensure local activists are included in issue forums prior to protesting being excluded. I think it’s necessary.

      But if you’re saying Bushnell Center did, in fact, contact BLM/MMCT prior to the event, what was the content and the result? Was a reason given for BLM/MMCT exclusion?
      Did BLM/MMCT return, as invited during the protest, and take part in the discussion?

  4. I wasn’t at the Forum, but based on the video, the disruption seemed disrespectful to the five people on stage discussing the topic (only one person of the five was white). Don’t they have something worthwhile to say, too? And, wasn’t the purpose to bring in a wider perspective through nationally known speakers, and then follow up with additional more local discussions and action taking? Did the disruption assist in that process? I don’t see that it did. I don’t think it’s easy to listen when the mode is disrespectful. It’s polarizing. The woman in the video appears to be intelligent and articulate, with good intentions. I wonder why they have chosen this strategy. Why didn’t they plan a local follow-up discussion in advance that could have been advertised at this event? Wouldn’t that have been more productive and garnered more support?

    Sure, we need to take action. Actually, it’s our policy-makers who need to be moved into action. The 5 points listed above need legislation and policy change. Realistically, change needs to worked out through them.

    We CAN work on changing people from within, yes? Isn’t discussion key to accomplishing that? There is certainly reason to be angry. However, don’t we also need a gentler catalyst that paves the way for a coming together? Don’t we need to move toward loving, respectful interaction and dialog on an every day basis? Doing what you do to raise awareness, educate, and be the change and inspire others to do the same – those are the actions the rest of us can do right now, every day.

    I hope they don’t disrupt your department’s event. It sounds like the students and faculty have put a lot of effort into planning it and learning about the complicated, related issues.

    • I would be OK if they did. I mean, I don’t know what it’s like to feel excluded from the conversation for generations and generations. And I have this discussion with a lot of my friends, across racial boundaries, etc. Good people disagree on the usefulness (or not) of such disruptions.

      • Women have been excluded for generations and generations, too. (I had to say it. I don’t like the statistics on violence against women either. And, as a majority population, we have a pitiful amount of influence/voice on important matters.) I don’t mean to minimize racial bias and discrimination. We really only know our own injustices first hand. Though we can acknowledge trends, comparing one person’s lived experience to another by an outside party isn’t fair. Instead of isolating as groups, we could choose to share in our compassion for historically and currently oppressed groups. I mean to suggest that we (all groups who have been historically silenced/oppressed) could work together to right the future in spite of the past. And not to leave out, white, straight, Christian males, they are welcome to join in the mission, if they are willing. I’d rather create allies than enemies. That’s where I’ve landed currently so I feel that shouting over others on the same mission seems misdirected.

        • You make a very good point. I usually feel like I’m sitting on the fence on this. I want to be respectful of people who haven’t had a seat at the table. I want an orderly table. I recognize that “orderly table” is code. You can’t always have both.

          • I respect sitting on the fence. 99.9999% of us regular people don’t get invited to the table or get heard. It is damn hard to be heard when you aren’t publicly known. I get the frustration. I’ve felt it personally on many issues. This still doesn’t seem useful in moving things forward – though I respect the passion and cause.

  5. The panel had one white gentleman Who has won more race cases in the US than anyone else. The rest of the panel and moderator were black and made a huge effort to engage the protester in the conversation. Despite repeated efforts she continued to shout Black Lives Matter and disrupt the proceedings without wanting to engage. Too bad for her she might have learned something.

    • Thanks for this. I wasn’t there and can only judge from this short video. It did sound like people on the stage were asking her to turn around and talk to them. And there toward the end, it sounded like at least one young woman (the one who did the talking?) was invited back inside.

  6. Michelle Norris, the moderator, repeatedly asked the woman to turn around and face the stage (the woman was facing the audience) and talk to her and the other panelists, but she continued to rant, and wouldn’t engage. That was a lost opportunity.

  7. Personally, I would have preferred that Michelle Norris allow the woman to say what she wanted without talking over her, as I was in the audience and curious about her message but could not hear it. Of course, I don’t generally find protests to be negative but rather positive in intent and sometimes in outcomes.

  8. I personally thought the protest was ridiculous, and so typical of the Black Lives Matter movement. The protestors didn’t care that the panelists and much of the crowd were sympathetic to their grievances and had gathered to discuss just these topics. They just wanted to disrupt the event to garner publicity, no matter how rude and unfair their behavior was to the panelists and the Forum patrons (who had paid up to $85/ticket). If they were looking to build support for their cause, they failed miserably.

    • See, I don’t think I can think of a “typical” anything of the Black Lives Matter movement. They seem like a pretty varied group using a variety of methods to get the attention of people who haven’t been paying attention. I’ve heard this same argument from people who don’t like it when the BLM block streets, etc. It’s a disruption. But if you don’t think you’ve been heard, well…what’s left?

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